Steve Hutchinson remembers exactly what he was thinking a year ago as the Vikings prepared to report to training camp:
"You think we could bump it back a month?"
The Pro Bowl left guard had been through a five-month whirlwind an appearance in the Super Bowl with Seattle; the Seahawks' surprise decision to place the less-restrictive transition tag on him; his signing a seven-year, $49 million offer sheet with the Vikings; and a ruling that the "poison pill" language inserted in the offer was legal.
And that doesn't take into account that Hutchinson a "creature of habit" had to adapt to a new metro area and a new team.
"I've got to go fishing or something," Hutchinson recalls thinking. "I haven't done anything yet."
When the Vikings report to Mankato on Wednesday, Hutchinson should have no such concerns. Everything that was new -- from the drive to Mankato to the location of the coffee pot at Winter Park -- is now familiar. Perhaps best of all, Hutchinson was able to spend the offseason in relative obscurity, playing golf with his neighbor, former Viking John Randle, and fishing from his new boat.
"I've sensed it and I've seen it," Vikings coach Brad Childress said of Hutchinson's increased comfort level. "I think it's by virtue of the fact that he makes his home here in the offseason. He spends time in our weight room. He spends time with our coaches."
Hutchinson, who will turn 30 in November, calls the downtime key. "I've had six months of no football now and stayed here," he said. "I haven't traveled much, didn't have to sell a house. ... I'd say I'm a lot more comfortable and satisfied now than I was last year."
Away from the job
Last month, Hutchinson relaxed at the kitchen table in his home in the western suburbs. His wife, Landyn, was nearby, at times getting up to tend to the couple's two children Lily, who turns 3 next month, and Luke, who was born in March.
It was not the sometimes ornery Hutchinson seen in the locker room. That Hutchinson often tried to keep his answers short and vanilla; this Hutchinson first gave a tour of his home and then provided thoughtful and thorough responses, admitting to often being "too sarcastic."
Hutchinson, whose father was a Florida police officer for 25 years, admits that rarely revealing this side of himself leaves many thinking he's nothing more than a 6-5, 313-pound ogre.
And he's OK with that.
"When I step through those doors, whether it be in Seattle or here, I'm at work," Hutchinson said. "People say all the time, 'I didn't know you talked,' or 'I didn't know you joked around.' Well, I don't do that kind of stuff at work."
That also comes from playing for no-nonsense coaches in Lloyd Carr at Michigan, then Seattles Mike Holmgren and Childress in the NFL. Their message is simple: Well take care of the media, you take care of playing.
"I'm not going to be the guy to go to if you're looking for someone to run his mouth and be front page on profootballtalk.com or in the newspaper," Hutchinson said. "There are plenty of guys in the league that will be happy to do that. ... My job is to go out there, put my left hand down on the ground and play on Sunday."
Hutchinson leaves his football persona behind on the drive home. In fact, one reason he lives about a half-hour from the Vikings' facility in Eden Prairie he lived about the same distance from the Seahawks' headquarters is so he can wind down.
At home Hutchinson rarely talks about football, loves to watch "Survivor" and "Lost" and helps take care of Lily and Luke.